Concern over death rates at Western Sussex hospitals

WESTERN Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust has been flagged up in a independent report into hospital mortality rates.

The trust was named in the Dr Foster Hospital Guide as one of 12 scoring higher than expected on two out of four ‘mortality measures.

The report looks at four key areas – the standardised mortality ratio, looking at death while in hospital care; the summary hospital-level mortality indicator, deaths following hospital treatment taking place in hospital or up to 30 days after discharge; deaths after surgery and deaths in low-risk conditions.

Western Sussex Hospitals, which runs St Richard’s Hospital, in Chichester, as well as Worthing and Southlands hospitals, scored higher than expected in the first two areas.

“These measures are to be used as a warning sign of a risk that poor quality care may be leading to a higher than expected mortality,” said the Dr Foster report.

“They are not measures that definitively state poor quality care is happening.”


Medical director Dr Phillip Barnes said: “While we are disappointed by the Dr Foster results, it is important to stress that our overall mortality rate – without applying any complex mathematical formulas – is falling, and falling quickly.

“The rate fell by approximately 10 per cent in the year to April 2012, and is on course to fall by a similar amount in this current year.

“Dr Foster themselves say that high HSMRs (their mathematical measure of mortality) should make trusts check out other measures of safety and quality.

“That is precisely what we do, and are proud of the fact that we have some of the best results for nursing care and safety in the South East, low and reducing numbers of complaints about nursing care, steadily improving rates for hospital infections and excellent reports from external regulators like the Care Quality Commission.

“Dr Foster have also described the need to avoid hospital admissions where possible.

“We know this and have been working with our local clinical commissioning group of GPs, community health services and the County Council on innovative projects such as One Call to achieve precisely that.

“Our focus is on getting overall mortality rates down, because that is about the care given to real people rather than mathematical models and the figures show we are having a real impact on patient care.”

Dr Foster

The Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College, London, has developed methodologies that enable fast, accurate problems of potential problems in clinical performance.

The organisation works to a code of conduct preventing political bias and requiring it to act in the public interest.

The full report can be viewed online.